Fortress Press

The Liberation of Method: The Ethics of Emancipatory Biblical Interpretation

The Liberation of Method

The Ethics of Emancipatory Biblical Interpretation

David Janzen (Author)


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The field of biblical studies has championed the historical-critical method as the only way to guarantee objective interpretation. But in recent decades, women, people of color, scholars from the Two-Thirds World, and members of the the LGBTQIA+ community have pursued hermeneutical approaches that provide interpretations useful for marginalized communities who see the Bible as a resource in their struggles against oppression. Such liberative strategies remain at the margins of the field. The Liberation of Method argues that this marginality must end, and that liberative methods should become the central methods of biblical studies.

The first part of the book draws upon the hermeneutics of philosophical pragmatism to argue that, because readers are responsible for the interpretation, there is no necessary connection between the meanings they produce and the ones ancient authors may have intended. As a result, the historical-critical method, which prioritizes the study of the ancient contexts of biblical writings, becomes an optional rather than a necessary aspect of interpretation. The second part of The Liberation of Method argues that if we truly hope to create an ethical academic field, more privileged scholars and students must see their minoritized colleagues as the leaders in the field, as models of the ethical liberative standards of interpretation.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Hardcover
  • ISBN 9781506474588
  • eBook ISBN 9781506474595
  • Dimensions 6.25 x 9.25
  • Pages 276
  • Publication Date October 19, 2021


"Through constructive conversations with a diversity of voices--ignored, neglected, and minoritized within biblical studies--Janzen helps his readers hoist antennae to heed the strong ethical component inherent in their readings. He calls for an ethical turn in biblical studies and a cultural turn to justice and emancipation, arguing that 'liberation and not method' should be the goal. This contribution is bold and refreshing, and is deserving of recognition and appreciation. It is a superb resource for those interested in biblical methodology, the academy, and issues of justice."

Monica Jyotsna Melanchthon, Pilgrim Theological College, University of Divinity

"This accessible, erudite, engaging, and often movingly honest book deserves a guaranteed place on university reading lists. It is a model of empathetic listening, understanding, and response. Those who have experienced marginalization, including self-marginalization in order to feel accepted, are given the centre ground. Had this book been available when I was starting out as a biblical scholar, it would have made a profound difference to my well-being within academia. I couldn't recommend it more highly."

Deryn Guest, honorary senior lecturer, University of Birmingham

"Traditionally, the majority of biblical scholars have used primarily historical-critical methods that focus on the past. Janzen offers an extensive and detailed analysis of the African American, Asian American, Latino/Latina, and queer biblical scholars who are using a range of other approaches to address the present. Janzen argues convincingly that explorations of biblical texts should incorporate these new methods and insights. His conclusion is one that we should all reach: if the discipline does not consider this newer work, it is not just failing to expand its historical-critical methodologies; it is being unethical."

Cheryl B. Anderson, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

"A most timely and valuable proposal, highly sophisticated and highly creative... a most welcome addition."

Fernando Segovia,Vanderbilt University